The 7 Deadly Sins Of DJing


The seven deadly sins apply to DJing, too! Read on and see if you're guilty of any of them...

The seven deadly sins apply to DJing, too! Read on and see if you're guilty of any of them...

I recently read a post on a completely-unrelated-to-DJing website based around the "seven deadly sins". It occurred to me that the "seven deadly sins" can be applied fair and square to DJing too.

So here they are: The "seven deadly sins", as they apply to DJing. See if you recognise yourself in any of them - and if you can say that you don't, please treat this as your opportunity to wise up to avoid falling into one of these ungodly traps! (If you want to make sure you get off on the right track from the start, take a look at our How To Digital DJ Fast video training.)

1. Pride

Of course you should be proud of your music, your DJing, and your achievements, and you should strive to appear outwardly confident about what you do (after all, if you don't believe in yourself, you can't expect anyone else to - see Why You Need To Hustle To Get DJing Success).

But arrogance is not cool. One way this comes across is when you claim stuff for yourself that's patently untrue (like passing off other DJ's work as your own, or taking credit for other people's tricks, or miming DJing moves on your gear in front of a crowd).

Or ever seen people claiming they personally "invented" a scene? Not cool, and not necessary if you really did (your peer group will credit you). Music movements of all types are generally populated by humble, creative people who can be the nicest folk you'll ever be lucky enough to meet and hang out with - but get arrogant and you'll run the risk of losing friends and respect fast.

Yet another way arrogance and pride show is in thinking you know best all the time when it comes to music. DJing is not and never has been about putting your head down and ploughing through a pre-arranged playlist that is being enjoyed by precisely… nobody.

Look up. Engage your audience. Vary things to try and please them. Never forget that it's two-way. Keeping everyone with you is one of the most hallowed and hard-to-learn skills of DJing, and is something to be sought continually, not disregarded because you're too proud to learn from your mistakes and keep trying.

The bottom line: Be confident but stay humble. It's ultimately about music, not business. Your crowd are your friends so try and please them.

2. Envy

Whenever anyone gets any success, about 500 other people try and replicate it.

If you just lamely try and copy what someone else is doing, you'll never be better than they are at it, and you'll never find an audience for yourself, because that person has already got that particular audience stitched up.

It is absolutely imperative to have the cojones to follow your heart, follow what makes you happy, and work on being different to everyone else, trusting that when you're good enough, you'll start to get the success you deserve.

The bottom line: Worry about your own game, not everybody else's.

3. Wrath

Another thing DJs sometimes do when other DJs get some success is bad-mouth the person who's doing well for themselves, claiming they had some unfair advantage, or that they're somehow not "the real deal", and so on.

Don't be a troll!

Don't be a troll! As my mum used to say, If you can't find anything nice to say about someone... Pic: Deviant Art

Please don't be one of those people. If you spend all your time badmouthing other people, constantly belittling other people's achievements, not only will all that negative energy in the end get to you, but be aware: People don't forget.

Precisely those people who could have helped you to reach the heights you dream of will instead treat you with suspicion or downright hostility. It's not worth it in the long run: Help others, and they'll help you.

The bottom line: Don't bad-mouth others. Accept that they deserve their success just as much as you do.

4. Sloth

DJs can be lazy folk. Try to resist expecting success without putting any work in, or slacking off once you get a gig or two.

If you work hard, you are immediately putting yourself at an advantage. It takes, so they say, 10,000 hours to get good at something. So are you out there, playing any gigs you can, to get your time on the clock? Are you learning how to be more productive, so the time you have to spend on DJing gets used wisely? Are you doing music discovery in your lunch hour at work, or getting an hour's headphones practice in before anyone else is up and out of bed?

No? Well, those who are hungrier than you for success probably are.

The bottom line: Those who do the work get the rewards.

5. Greed

Do you fight for DJ slots, doing all you can to get one over on other DJs on the bill? Do you jealously guard tracks you've found, and not share the names with other DJs or your audience? Do you spend all your time promoting yourself, and none of it promoting others in your scene? Yes? Well, that makes you greedy, and the truth is that greed won't get you far. Here's just one example: Go and take a look at the mixes and music section of the Digital DJ Tips forum. Notice how many DJs arrive at our community, and post their mixes as the first thing they do, asking people to comment on them. Now look at home many DJs actually do get feedback. It's far fewer.

The difference between the two types is that those who get useful feedback on their work are the ones who - rather than simply demanding people spend the time to listen to their mixes - have first taken time to listen to and comment on other people's. Give, and you'll get.

The bottom line: Help others and they'll help you.

6. Gluttony

Traditionally, we think of gluttony as eating too much, but this term can be used to describe any kind of excess. And here I'm thinking squarely of drink and drugs.

Music is my drug

It's your choice, but if you think the mega DJs of today are partying all weekend, every weekend, you're fooling yourself...

A famous DJ once said to me: "You can take two routes: The drink and drugs route, or the other route. Very few who take the first route last the course."

Look at the big DJs of today. Most of them hit mega success in their 30s or 40s. What do you think 10 or 15 years of week-long partying would have done to them, had they made that lifestyle choice? You only need to look at the countless other DJs who didn't make it, who got burned out, who ended up with mental health issues or worse, for your answer.

I don't want to preach here: I enjoy a good time, and I've done most things in my life too. But if you want to make a career of this, you owe it to your craft (nobody DJs better when "under the influence", they just think they do) and to your health, to moderate what you do.

The bottom line: Go careful around drink and drugs.

7. Lust

Hey hey, it's everyone's favourite sin! But seriously, lust is destructive. What I am talking about here is not shagging the promoter's girlfriend (although that's usually pretty inadvisable), but rather: Gear lust.

Here's a big truth: You can DJ on pretty much bloody anything. Never forget that the scene you know and love was built on gear that didn't change for decades. It's only recently that people have begun to believe that you need the latest and greatest gear just to get your foot in the door.

Two Technics

For many, many years, this was basically it for DJ gear. While I wouldn't like to return to those days, I do think DJs nowadays need to worry less about what they're using, and more about what they're doing.

Sure, gear is good. Sure, you can do cool things with it. Sure, we love it as much as the next DJs do. But "real" DJs settle on what they're happy with, then concentrate on their craft. Hint: It's about music, not Midi. It's about people, not products. It's about feelings, not functions.

The bottom line: Pick and set up your DJ gear carefully, then forget about it. Only change your gear when you really have to. Concentrate on the real skills, not the "next big thing".

Hands up, are you guilty of any of the above? I've been guilty of more than one at some time or other (don't think I ever shagged a promoter's girlfriend though). Do you agree with me, or do you think some of the things above are OK? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. "You can DJ on pretty much bloody anything. Never forget that the scene you know and love was built on gear that didn’t change for decades. It’s only recently that people have begun to believe that you need the latest and greatest gear just to get your foot in the door." This right here is the single greatest thing I have ever read on this site, Great article.

  2. Great article!

    This is the kinda articles I like and that you are good at!

    Favourite DJ Btw.

  3. Definitely guilty of lust. Been practising less than 6 months and already ordered a new piece of kit. Not because I feel I need it though, just makes me happy. Great article as always.

  4. Really solid list and description here. Couldn't agree more. Having just hit the two year mark and still being only 17 I have to say, I run into most of these. Especially the drugs and alcohol affair, that's really big here in NZ. Sad news, but perfectly avoidable...

    Good work!

  5. sameoldsong says:

    The cardinal rule of DJing is: "The beat must go on."

    If you ask me, the only deadly sin is to violate that rule.

  6. Foldabledisco says:

    Guilty on the lust thing, bought the F1 controllers it was lust on first sight... I use them not much in my 'real' sets, but do use them at home till they seamlessly intergrate in my workflow. Allthough I have to admit that its costing a lot of time to prepare/find decent content for the F1.
    Also with buyin' music lust can be a thing. I like to buy a lot of music and putting myself on a musical 'diet'. 'No more Beatport or Juno for you mister!!! Till you know all your songs you've got'.

  7. Good article, DDJT is an awesome site, I check it out every day. Thanks Phil for all the quality content you put out there for us! Probably wouldn't have gotten into this method of expressing my love for the music without you :)


    Totally guilty of #7. I think it can be a problem especially for eager newcomers (like myself) who think that more/"better" gear will improve their DJing. Truth is, it won't. If you can't mix properly to save your life, banging away on some additional button boxes is prone to make you sound even worse 😀
    On the other hand as you start out and after some months your own style of doing things slowly emerges, you might want to find a setup that suits you better. Doesn't have to be more expensive necessarily, you might just swap one thing for another. For example I'm trying out a more modular approach right now, after spending most of the time on a NI S2, which is a great piece of kit after all.

    But true: it's about finding what works for you and then sticking to that and mastering your gear inside out. There's people who can do more on a X1 than I could do with the full range of Pioneer gear.

    This is true for every passion that relies on technology to some extent. I ride downhill mountainbike, and I know a lot of guys for whom it's more important to have the latest bike model or fancy components, than the actual riding. And then there's people outriding them on crappy 10 year old bikes. Whatever makes you happy, I guess ^^

    And the lust is definitely a problem with the music too. The constant conflict of knowing your tunes, versus all the great music coming out every month, every week, every day really. You feel pressured to keep up and play the latest of the latest before anyone else does. A way to cope with that might be to set a limit for each week (say 7 songs/week), add all the new songs you like to a cart over the week and then on sunday you just buy the ones you love most and move on.
    But I have a hard time implementing that xD

    Thanks again for your hard work Phil, keep it up! :)

  8. this article came at the exact time when a DJ friend of mine committed one of the sins against me. I sent him a "hiphop-house" mashup track I did so he could give me feedback on it. And guess what he did.... he altered the tempo, added his own DJ drops on it and posted it on the internet as his own! wow. I cant believe some people can actually do stuff like that.

  9. Always LUST for me - I love new gear! Just bought an Allen & Heath K2!

  10. Bryan Singleton says:

    Great column Phil,I have to fight the urge to be complacent,relying on past success.The key to being a great DJ is PRACTICE,PRACTICE,PRACTICE.Thanks

  11. "The difference between the two types is that those who get useful feedback on their work are the ones who – rather than simply demanding people spend the time to listen to their mixes – have first taken time to listen to and comment on other people’s. Give, and you’ll get."

    I agree with this completely, but sometimes as a new DJ, you don't feel you have the experience or knowledge to give useful feedback to someones mix who is much more experienced.

  12. Nice one! Humourous yet very informative 😀 great article!

  13. Lordamercy says:

    Great article and sin 5 slapped me in my face im always posting tunes and mixes in the forum and NEVER look at any1 elses. So I started this thread:-

    Help me cleans my sins children Hallelujah (",)

  14. Ahhh yes.

    Lust is definitely my sin. I dont have much money so I spend a lot of my free time gawping at the equipment I could buy if I was rich. I have a list as long as my arm of equipment id love to have.

    Perhaps im destined to open a DJ store so I get to try all the equipment out.

    • Well, it's a bit like that running a site that carries reviews of all the new gear 😀 But I still DJ on the same controller I had before doing this job... which just shows that if it ain't broke (for you), there's no need to go about fixing it.

  15. Really enjoyed this, though I don't correlate not sharing ones music library with others as being greedy.

    If it's all about the music than your track selection is important, and in smaller scenes it's far too easy for DJs to suddenly have the same track library.

  16. Kinda disagree with #7, just a little
    What about sports? They get and wear new uniforms cause. A talented businessman could still do his job in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but he wears a nice instead because it affects his emotions and therefore his performance.
    There is something about new gear that if viewed properly can give excitement to the dj that he/she can then spread to the crowd.

  17. Number 7 is the one that really stands out the most. I truly love this one. Thank you for adding this one to the list.

  18. I got to admit that I think I'm guilty of just about every one of them at some point in time :)

    1. Easy. Playing something prearranged and blaming the crowd for not cooperating with the excuse that them poor souls just don't get it :) Also, fake button pressing. What can i say, song was long and uneventful 😛

    2. Sure. But I think that a bit of replication and copying CAN be beneficial. But as a producer I was(am) sometimes "inspired" heavily, nevertheless 😀 Also, envy can set you goals, if you keep it to yourself and under control.

    3. Yep. But sometimes, their advantage really is unfair. I did missed a few times...

    4. My biggest sin so far. I just can't bring myself to do it every day. I know I would benefit greatly, but I just can't. Not that I do nothing, or even little, or perhaps even average amount of work, but I know I could do a lot more. On the other side tho, I know people that churn average tracks and average mixes my the hour, so I guess it must be about balance...

    5. Yes I did fight for the slot. And for the extended play time.
    And yes I deliberately promoted myself instead of whole night.
    This is perhaps the biggest screw up you can make. This is where friends are lost, careers destroyed. I rarely comment on others(strangers) work too. Never held back a tracklist tho, so a bit of a leveled karma there :) This is also the sin of balance. Be overly nice and you are elbowed into dust. Just know your worth and enforce it, but know the line.

    6. I passed out behind the decks once... once. :) Insulted M.I.K.E. Push on another occasion, stormed the DJ booth... or so was I told, luckily, years ago :)

    7. MOAR VSTS!!! which I believe can be accounted for gear lust.
    I luckily don't have that hardware obsessions some have.
    Oh, and I did hit on promoters girldfriends several times, unknowingly :)

  19. So true.. the lust thing kills me. I am so easily distracted because of my passion for "o look what this can do" I spend way to much time fantasizing and imagining the possibilities rather than getting intimate with the gear I got and focusing on what counts and is timeless.
    Too funny.

  20. Thanks I think this is a good code of ethics for me to live by as a dj and a human...

  21. I´ve sinned a bit during my DJ carrer, I confess. All the 7, plus a few more I guess, what can I do... at one point or another. In the end, I´d say I´d do it all again since it was all part of the process (the learning process that is). If you can take the lesson, improve and move on, commiting a sin (or all of them) can be a good thing.

    Take gear lust for instance. It´s pretty normal and common for new DJs to rely on equipment, to be curious, to be insecure. I went through all kinds of gear since I started DJing in ´86 and with the benefit of hindsight, I reached the conclusion that it brought me some deep knowledge about equipment and proficiency in dealing with all kinds of stuff and (most) situations. I did equipment test and review for mags, consulting for makers and clubs, and it helped me get out of trouble in more than a few situations - all that helped my DJing in one way or another. So even if it´s just lust for lust, you always have something to learn so make it into a positive.

    And it goes away with time. There´s a point when only the music matters, realy. Like magic. After a ton of gear throughout the years, I´m now using only a small, toy-like gizmo (the iPad2) to play anywhere. Some DJs laught at it but I don´t care. I don´t really care for the iPad either, just my whole music collection that´s in it and the conveniency and portability. It could be a CDJ, a controller, a pair of MK2s, whatever.

    And to imagine that there was a time I´d carry FX, controllers, CDJs and even mixers to gigs and clubs to feel like "the DJ"...

  22. Great article Phil!
    Hopefully I won't fall for any of these sins... I definitely won't fall for lust because I just use a laptop at the moment, going to get a mixtrack pro soon. This really will help out a lot of people, giving them a line to try not to cross (or to jump over, you'll never change some people).

    DaftSteam out!

  23. I am sure you've covered this subject somewhere.. but I think the 8th Sin would be to only arrive 5 mins before your time slot.. (arrogant and sloppy) Be there as early as possible.. Get a feel for what the crowd is reacting to in the previous set.. Most importantly, ensure that you don't re-play a track from the previous set even if you think you have a better re-mix..

    I also think it's important to know your role in a night.. If there are 5 dj's on the list.. You need to adapt to whether you are first (warm up) in the prime slot (kick ass) or in last.. (maintaining and ensuring people are on the floor to the end).. Plan your set accordingly, but be prepared for anything.. because the chances are you'll have to adapt to the crowd, the situation and the possibility that the previous dj's have dropped every hit..

  24. As always - Great article!!!
    When I read the "lust" sin, I instantly felt guilty. After reading through the comments, I realize that's one of the most common sins amongst us all. Damn, I always want new toys to play with, yet I have the most fun just spinning on my Sl's - Crazy I tell you!!

  25. I think I might have fallen, or could have fallen more, under the greed category but I'm not sure. I thought it wise not to share the names of good tracks because if everybody, DJs and audiences, know the same tracks then how does one stay unique and ahead of the game?

    I kinda get it now, it's not sharing your tracks that stop making your mix unique, it's what you do with those tracks and when you chose to play them. Thanks! You pulled me out of this one!

  26. This is an amazing post.

    I met a lot djs that lives in a buble & live the 7 sins everyday. Sometimes they need heavy drugs just to forget the "pressure of mixing" & "if the crowd will like or not". WTF! For what the the hell are you mixing for?

    It is very important to be honest with our selves no matter what we do, no matter what happend.

    I really enjoy this blog and it makes me more happy to know that someway youre showing a good path for the new ones.

  27. I guess I should put my hands up for gear lust- although I haven't caved and given the stores all my money- YET, but I'm definitely saving up, and noticing the list of "gear I'm saving for" get longer and longer every other day!
    That being said, will still be upgrading as soon as it makes financial sense- which is funny, because I literally used to play for YEARS with vdj and a keyboard, not the ideal setup, but hey, I didn't have the cash and venues still kept calling weekend after weekend so why not, right?
    Then I figured, since I haven't used a controller before, better start small and get a mixtrack pro. Now the weird thing is- or maybe I should have expected this- I still get bookings, well more than before, but other DJs have started to say things like it's not "real equipment", or, like you said about badmouthing, "I'm not the real deal" or whatever.
    Which is ridiculous considering I should be judged on the music and not the gear, right?
    And yes, I can understand that perhaps they're just jealous or whatever. But I'm willing to admit it still stings a bit. Even enough to motivate some gear lust :/

  28. Great rework of the original article (HBR) ! You're right on just about everything !
    Great article !!!

  29. DJ Goldfingers says:

    (...forgive me father for I have sinned.. My VCI-300 has been ever faithful to me, but I am lusting after the EKS Otus Plus three doors down...)

  30. Well said

  31. A GREAT article.....truly can be applied anywhere! Alot of these things can be viewed happening all the time.....and I believe it's truly gotten worse with the digital age. So many ppl feel they can say or do WHATEVER just bc the person's not standing in front of them.....or better yet they may be a complete stranger 10,000 miles away. U see it happening everyday......respect and kindness is not's GIVEN....unless someone does something to not deserve it.

  32. Greed and arrogance is something that I find most of the young Dj's have far to much off, even to the point were they think they are better than Dj's who have worked in clubs for 15+ years. I was at a gig recently and just cos this young lad had not heard of another Dj he automatically said he was crap and he should be given the better time slot. He took the hump when the promoter said no so decided to play what he thought was all the massive dance stuff so the Dj going on afterwards wouldnt be able to play them. Unfortunately for him he didn't realise the Dj on after him had years of experience so he didn't get flustered one bit and just played a set of house floorfillers from the last 30yrs that had the dancefloor rammed from his 1st tune to the last. The look on the lads face was priceless, and even more so after the promoter told him he was never going to use him again because of his attitude.

    Lust for equipment is something I don't understand. The 1 thing I tell young Dj's who are just starting out is 'if the music that Dj's play was meant to have all of the added effects in it then the producers would have put them into the song themselves', so forget about all of that stuff and just get yourself a set of turntables or cdj's and a mixer and get practicing. Also dont think just cos you can mix in your bedroom you will be able to walk straight into a Dj booth and mix seamlessly in a bar or club in front of a crowd cos that never happens as Dj'ing live is so different than doin a quick mix in your room at home.

  33. dj/kj AngieB says:

    I agree with alot of the things you wrote down and I am guilty of a few...I focus on my people and really show them a loving happy and good spirited time...I drink often but I dont get drunk..I dont want to appear greedy even though sometimes I may come off that way because I am very protective of my gear. I want to use the same stuff till I am very careful with it and picky about who ask to help me set up or break down..I use sites for my karaoke and pay subscriptions each month for them..I tell others about the sites if they wish to do what i am doing..I believe giving someone my karaoke discs is illegal and therefore I wont sell or burn them. I live in a small town and competition is fierce!..I did oust a fellow Karaoke Jockey who was going around stealing or taking shows from others..I should of just prayed for him but I talked too another KJ and one avid follower of us both and I feel real bad about that now and asked God to forgive me...I am in debate on doing this profession because can we really do this and be a child of God??? Its a career and something I am very good at and I feel that I can show others how good God is by the way I carry myself and treat people with love and kindness...surrounded by music dancing laughing and singing! Is that even possible?????????????????????...I am conflicted by it!...I felt in church that God told me too pursue this course but give me the glory and speak my name...tell others about me and how good I am! I believe he also told me this is not always going to be what you do for me ...It will change and you will be in the church singing! I felt my vision was to have people follow me right into the church and therefore be saved...God is my strength...God is my guide ...and God is my mission!...I am not perfect but I believe that there are sinners in the clubs that can and will be saved...As God says in the bible I am not here to save the righteous I am here to save the sinner! I would love to get some feedback on this myself!..God Bless you! This article was very enlightening and made me look at myself!

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